Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reviews, Internet Buzz, and How I Wasted $125 (And You Can Too!)

What stinks most about Internet buzz is you never know what to believe. It really does stink. Right now there’s a lot of buzz going on about many shows out previewing throughout the country—people have strong opinions about 13, 9 to 5, Shrek, not to mention the already-opened Tale of Two Cities.

The start of the problem is that you can’t always/usually trust the critics entirely. We all have loved shows the critics have gleefully trounced—perhaps The Wedding Singer, Wicked, or Sweet Smell of Success. So when the reviews come out, you read them fully aware that you are quite possibly reading something written by someone who sees 150 plays a year, hates 100 of them, despises 35, thinks 10 are okay, and only actually liked 4.5 (second act trouble, you know). Nothing surprises them because they’ve seen everything, and you can’t tell if they are more interested in being entertained or seeing something that breaks new ground.

But you also can’t trust the message boards (of which I am a proud member) because everyone there thinks they are the next Ben Brantley with the one and only perspective anyone should have about any show, an opinion that is Gospel truth because they themselves form it with a story sense that would make George Abbott plead for a master class. And let’s face it; if the director makes a choice different from what we would make, he or she clearly made the wrong decision, right?

That’s why I never know what to think. And that’s how I wound up throwing away $125 on Tarzan.

Yes, I knew the critics hated Tarzan—but did they hate it because it was slow, plodding, and well-intentioned-however-sadly-misguided (and very boring, despite a great amount of talent on stage)? Or did they hate it because it was a Disney show? After all, you can’t really be a critic and like a Disney show.

Then I read the message boards. Okay, what they said about Tarzan, these are the same things people said about shows I loved—The Scarlet Pimpernel, Jane Eyre, The Wedding Singer, Bells are Ringing, Follies, Beauty and the Beast—so did they hate it because Tarzan had a giant purple spider and a cartoon projected on a screen rather untheatrically? Or did they hate it because they hate pretty much everything, particularly if its Disney?

Right now there’s some pretty bad buzz out there concerning about every musical opening so far this fall—Tale of Two Cities, 13, Shrek, and 9 to 5. If I make it to New York next spring, how will I know which one is a Tarzan and which is a Wicked? My inner voice says I’ll probably love Tale of Two Cities, and since I couldn’t stand ten minutes of the movie Shrek (okay, mostly because it was so ugly), I don’t really care about the stage version. I have high hopes for 13 because of Jason Robert Brown, though the concept sounds highly not interesting (though I am willing to give it a try because Jason Robert Brown is a genius in my book, which makes it of interest despite the kid-focused story), and I’m willing to see what happens with 9 to 5 since I do have a soft place in my heart for Stephanie J. Block.

Hmmm, the critics have nothing to do with those choices, and I guess I’m not too dissuaded by the message boards either.

But then, do I really want to waste $125? On Tarzan, I knew it was a real gamble, and I walked in knowing full well that I could be wasting my money. But I wanted to see the new Disney show because it was a Disney show and had its original cast. Plus, truth be told, I really wanted to see Merle (insert: sigh) Dandridge in it. It was a calculated risk I consciously made fully aware of the possibility. Still, it cost me $125, and it didn’t do anything for me.

the Broadway Mouth
September 20, 2008

No comments: